Naruto: Shinobi Wars
-Pearl Ridge: Redux-
Nami no Kuni, Pearl Ridge, Kumo controlled Hilltop Fortress...
The trees of the small forest creaked in the winter twilight as a0 thick mist coiled and spread, veiling the lightly forested valley. Flittering from tree to tree, taking roundabout paths, using the cover of the thick fog Naruto moved toward the lower fortifications of the hill. The Konoha/Kiri teams had already pulled back, while the Kiri created mist hopefully convinced the Kumo forces that they were retreating; which they were at least temporarily, though it had been a fight to get the Kiri forces to agree.
Even the Konoha groups had been less than thrilled, and honestly Naruto wasn't thrilled with the plan he had came up with either - still the fact remained that they needed to take this hill. Therefore, no matter how much he was against this idea, or how much he thought people had their priorities skewered, he would see it through. Besides, part of him reasoned that after all those who had given their lives on this battlefield, retreating would be a slap in the face to their memory's and sacrifice.
Finally, after what felt like forever of stumbling and groping through the gray void that the fog had created, Naruto reached the first barricade. Slipping over it, he discovered the ground littered with dead samurai and weapons - Kumo had begun pulling their forces higher up the path, leaving the fog shrouded path to the night. Crouching low, Naruto hurried along the upward winding path passing a mournful group of four corpses and offered a silent apology for each one as he slipped passed the dead men, and as he reached a dead Kumo ninja, he hesitated before offering another before continuing on his path.
As he ascended, Naruto got the distinct impression that he was an invader of an entirely different sort: this was hollowed land, owned by dead men. He hurried on a little apprehensive that the dead might rise against him, since as a Jinchūriki weird crap happened frequently around them. A second later, he came across what he was hoping to find, namely a group of wounded men stumbling along; trusting to his disguise of 'borrowed' samurai armor, mud and a bloody bandage around his throat, he moved to join them.
These men did not even notice him loom out of the fog joining their procession, to busy trying to keep their own self-made bandages in place.
The man just ahead of Naruto was laughing hysterically as he moved along; arm slung around his neighbors shoulders, the stump where his left leg had been leaking blood even through the bandage. Another further ahead had his head wrapped in a thick bandage and singing in high and quavering voice made up of merriment and agony: those nearest to the man limped and staggered to the tune. The one immediately to Naruto's left was ashen and stalked along, his lips curled in hard lines and teeth clenched, hands bloody from where he pressed both against his stomach as if trying to hold the content inside, eyes burning as they stared into the unknown of death.
A little further along, the singing man and the stalker collapsed, thinning the group of shambling wounded. A little after that those that remained came across medics who had set up a way station and an underlying difference between the villages that he had been unaware of struck Naruto. In Konoha medics were almost standard to each team and if that couldn't be done, then the instant the fighting had stopped Konoha medics swarmed out of their safety going to the dying that needed them, yet in Kumo they set up way stations and waited for the injured to make it back to them.
As the medics approached each wounded ninja, some holding clipboards while others started treatment Naruto noted there were other more hidden ninja present. They stood in strategic spots, so they would go unnoticed, and were observing everyone quite intently. Sensor specialist, Naruto decided with a mental grimace, as a medic with a clipboard ambled up to him.
"Ayaui." Naruto managed with a badly garbled voice, then at the medics look reached up to touched the bandage "kunai nicked me, I cauterized it."
"Not the best option," the medic said with a frown as he jotted something down "but it works. We've got a lot of worse off here so you can keep going, but make sure you check in at the field hospital."
Naruto grunted in acknowledgement and then shuffled on, forcing his eyes not to look at any of the semi-hidden ninja, even as the medic moved onto the next person. He did not quite dare breathe a sigh of relief as he managed to pass the hidden checkpoint, but he pressed on with his mission. Unfortunately this was hampered by the fact that when he reached the other side of the makeshift aide station, a teen covered with muck and blood with an arm hanging limply at his sides, shuffled away from his own clipboard medic to join Naruto.
They walked in silence for a while, the teen lost in his own world and Naruto expecting an ambush at any moment. It was not until they were almost to the secret entrance the teen finally spoke. "Was a pretty good fight wasn't it?"
"What?" Naruto asked, only just remembering to keep his voice gravel like.
"Was pretty good fight, wasn't it?" The other repeated, smiling weakly "It was my first real fight since I graduated the academy, but I thought it went well."
"Genin?" Naruto grunted, not having to fake his surprise.
"Yeah." The younger teen said, his tone leaving Naruto little doubt that the kid had lost his whole team in the fighting.
"Huh," Naruto said, allowing the conversation lapse.
"I wonder why they pulled back." The Genin continued after a moment, eyes drifting to the thick fog bank below "I heard someone say they were going to use the fog to sneak attack us but we have the high ground right. And even if they do, our men are stationed down there and we've got Darui-sama up above, ready to use his Ranton techniques if we need him to."
"Yeah, he's awesome..." The Genin added before he began to ramble on about the other ninja and Naruto made it a point to use every trick Ero-sennin had ever taught him to control the conversation. He had done the same to that kunoichi in Taki, but this time there was more at stake so Naruto made damn sure not to miss a single thing. The bulk of his plan was sketchy, at least as far as his role in it, so he needed all the information he could get and it was sounding like he would need to make it a point to take out this Darui.
Still, that did leave Naruto with the problem killing his current companion, he had taken plenty of lives and would take many more, but he could not seem to shake the discomfort. Was it right to kill the wounded, and thus defenseless people, just because they were present? That would be something Orochimaru would do...Naruto could not see any of the Hokage's doing it - suddenly he had a sour taste in his mouth.
As they entered the hidden path leading inside the fort, Naruto made a snap decision: "I'm sorry."
The Genin started to respond, but Naruto struck with all the speed of a fox on a rabbit; his left arm fired a sharp elbow to the man's cheek, and then pivoting Naruto delivered a scooping palm-heel with his right hand into the teen's jaw knocking him out and sending him flipping in the air before landing on his stomach. Naruto took a moment to check the tunnel to ensure that nobody was coming before discarding his disguise and then dragged the unconscious Genin to the side. After that, Naruto adopted a quick Henge to ensure that he could reach his target location unnoticed and turning he continued at a brisk pace.
Emerging from the tunnel, he paused, glancing around at the peaceful enemy base and realized that they honestly thought they were untouchable - he grinned in a very predatory fashion.
Eying the guards on the walls, whose attention was focused on the distant but potential threat below them, Naruto moved as inconspicuously as he could, making it appear that the was moving toward either the main command building or the field hospital. At least until he reached the center of the compound, when he came to an abrupt stop, trying to decide on which method he wanted to use to accomplish this part of his plan: Using the Kyūbi would be the easiest route to his goal, but handling that much power would be overkill - at least for this.
So instead he settled on the 'Jinrai no Jutsu' a D-rank technique that Yugito had taught him years ago during his training trip, though since he was a wind user it was both difficult to learn and used more chakra than normal. Still it remained one of his favorite methods for garnering attention and that was exactly what he wanted. Allowing his disguise to crumble he focused the needed chakra into his hands, and then brought them together with every ounce of authority and force he could muster, filling the compound with an almost earsplitting clap of thunder.
Seeing that he had all eyes upon him he adopted a heroic pose, hands on his hips and chin held high as he addressed his startled audience:
"Behold, it is I, Konoha's Number One Prankster, Hero and the Next Hokage!" At this, he flashed them an impossibly wide grin. "Uzumaki Naruto!"
"Are you sure this is going to work?"
Ino glanced at the blue-haired young man currently crouching at her side, forearms resting on either thigh, heedless of the large sword he carried slung across his back. It still surprised Ino that such a reserved looking young man such as Chōjūrō could actually be one of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist, though she had seen firsthand just how bloodthirsty he could be. Perhaps it was the fact that she had fought two other members of that group, both now dead in no small part to her efforts and neither of them had been that young.
Thankfully, Chōjūrō had shown no more interest in her than he had anyone else that wield a sword – she just prayed that he wouldn't have a sudden change of heart and try to avenge his fallen comrades during the looming battle.
"It'll work." Ino assured him at last, slipping the hilt of Raijin-ken from the loop at her waist, attention returning to the battle that lay ahead. Ino's team along with the rest of the platoon Naruto had left her in command of held the dubious honor of a frontal assault, especially since their role existed as more distraction than an actually assault. The real attack of the Konoha/Kiri alliance would be attacking from within and from above the Kumo controlled fort – the Konoha forces involved had been only slight more comfortable with Naruto's plans than the Kiri forces.
Ino had flat out refused to join either group.
"Ready?" Chōjūrō asked, shifting his weight while pulling his own blade from across his back as they reached the edge of the fog.
"As ready as I'm ever going to be, I suppose." Ino said, studying the fortifications, she could see through the thickening fog. They had not tripped any alarms so far, which was good on several fronts – not the least of which would be the element of surprise. "Chōjūrō-san spread the word that once we start this assault we keep pushing forward. If someone falls behind, or get's wrapped up in a heavy fight everyone else keeps going. If we falter for a second they can easily force us into retreat."
"Understood." Chōjūrō said, relaying her message through the radio.
"Mhmm, can you still see Yugito and her squad?" Ino asked a nearby Hyūga, whose name escaped her at the moment.
"No, she's out of my range."
"Alright, then get ready." Ino grumbled, wishing that Naruto had not allowed the other woman to take her own squad and leave. Yugito had convinced him that she could find some hidden path in that would lead to the fort, an escape route of course, but Ino doubted they would find it or at least that they would find it in time to be useful. Dismissing thoughts of Yugito and the whole situation from her head, Ino focused on the only thing that mattered, Naruto had said that Yugito had maybe ten minutes before he was in place to start the assault.
So if the other woman was out of sight, then those ten minutes were just about up…and right on cue came the sound of distant thunder.
"Hold on Naruto, I'll be there soon." Ino whispered softly as fingers absently twitching against the hilt of both her blades. She took some comfort in the fact that Naruto was both insanely powerful and had Lee as backup, either one on their own could be considered a force of nature, together they should prove more than enough to handle the inside of the base.
"Shall we?" Chōjūrō asked with a feral grin.
"Move." Ino ordered and with a surge, her group began their assault exploding from the concealing mist and into battle with startled Kumo forces.
If one were curious as to how ninja reacted to people seemingly appearing from thin air right in their midst, especially a heavily secured fort, you only needed to observe the hilltop fort of Pearl Ridge. The Kumo ninja had naturally been surprised when the blond shinobi appeared from nowhere and announced his presence with an E-ranked lightning ninjutsu; they had even started to move to surround the fool. That was, of course, before they heard his name at which point they all started back tracking with sudden speed.
Which, to be fair, was not an unreasonable reaction considering that Uzumaki Naruto was not only in their bingo books as an S-rank threat but also something of a living boogeyman for them. Kumo command had tried to suppress the stories, but they still spread and everyone knew his habit of collecting Kumo forehead protectors and the horrific things he would do to his victims. Only a truly insane, or powerful, individual would even approach the infamous Konoha shinobi now standing in the middle of their fort.
Darui unfortunately counted as one of the latter, and the sad fact was he could not decide what to make of the young man standing in the middle of the compound, hands on hips and looking unreasonably confident. He looked almost nothing like how the stories described him: Naruto wore orange and black clothes, had wild blond hair three distinct whiskers on each cheek and a Konoha forehead protector displayed proudly on his forehead. He wanted to decry this figure as an imposter, but he knew from the official records of the bingo book that this guy matched the description of Uzumaki Naruto.
This meant that everyone had made the right decision to back off and let Darui confront the blond, because the average shinobi should never willingly attack an S-rank opponent even when they were outnumbered. Registering movement in the corner of his eye, Darui had to hold back his sigh as he realized that Atsui had decided to join him in this confrontation. Why did he have to be partnered with such a hot headed fool and not his more level headed sister Samui, still he would make do with what he hand.
"Leave him to us, you lot keep your attention on the focused outside." Atsui announced, drawing attention to the fact that their defenses had been distracted by Naruto's sudden appearance.
"Uzumaki Naruto, I suppose it was inevitable that you we would meet each other." Darui said, breaking the tense silence, wondering why the Konoha shinobi continued to stand there so passively. "I don't know why you would decide to appear before us now, but we have an obligation to strike you down."
"Heheh, I just wanted to say hi." Naruto offered brightly, before turning slightly serious. "Oi, you're Darui aren't you?"
"I'm flattered," Darui offered, wondering vaguely how the infamous Konoha shinobi had known enough to identify him. "You're pretty brave to enter an enemy stronghold just to say hello, but then you are an S-ranked enemy."
"Hey, that reminds me!" Naruto shouted, fist smashing into his other hand excitedly. "Do I got a cool nickname yet? I asked Karui-chan but she said no."
"Karui?!" Atsui snapped tersely. "What have you done to her?!"
"Ehhh?" Naruto said, giving him a strange look. "I didn't do anything to her, she tried to shove her sword through my kidney...but I reasoned with her."
"Sorry," Darui said, heaving a sigh as he shot the hot headed man a warning look. "But the fact remains we have an obligation to deal with you with extreme prejudice. I know this is a tad dull, but would you mind just surrendering?"
"Yeah, that's not gonna happen." Naruto said, before raising a finger "But before we get into the pointless violence I want to introduce you to a friend of mine."
"Like we would let you do that!" Atsui shouted erupting into an unexpected charge until a dark green blur dropped from the sky and directly into his path cutting the charge short. Atsui jumped back as the blur revealed itself a dark-haired young man with a bowl-cut, abnormally large eyebrows, and dressed in a solid green bodysuit with flak vest, orange leg-warmers, and bandaged hands.
"YOSH! Surrender now, for you face the youthful flames of ROCK LEE!" Lee announced, fist held upright, his entire form trembling with intensity that was almost visible.
"You think your hot stuff? You're nothing, I'll show you hot!" Came the equally intense response from Atsui, who proceeded to charge at Lee before unleashing an overhand chop. Lee blocked the attack with a kick to the arm with such force that it re-directed the weapon skyward and left the hot-headed Kumo ninja vulnerable to attack: which came in the form of a spinning side-kick that sent Atsui flying back.
Darui for his part had simple watched with a flat look that did nothing to hide his annoyance, this sort of thing was exactly why he hated working with Atsui.
"I...I didn't think it'd work out like that." Naruto admitted, sounding slightly unsure as the two ninja engaged in a ferocious fight.
"It's a bit dull, but it can't be helped." Darui said heavily before turning his attention back to Naruto, oddly feeling a little conflicted about fighting the other ninja now. "Are you prepared for the 'pointless violence' now?"
"I was born ready!" Naruto shouted and Darui leapt back with a cry of surprise as several dozen orange and black clones into action from seemingly nowhere.
Hands coming together he created a quick hand-seal before his body crackled to life with a burst of Black Lightning, which Darui quickly directed toward the various Kage Bunshin, allowing it to take the rough shape of a black panther. The 'Raiton: Kuropansa' made quick work of the various Kage Bunshin, darting from one to the next incinerating each of them, before Darui directed it toward the last spot he had seen the real Naruto standing and found the Konoha ninja unleashing his own ninjutsu.
"Fūton: Kazeryudan no jutsu!"
Darui frowned as he saw the dragon made of wind take shape and charge the rampaging panther head on, the two techniques clashed violently before canceling each other out violently. Skidding to a stop from the backlash of the exploding techniques, Darui grimaced wondering at just how much compressed air Naruto had to have placed into that technique; it was the first time Darui had ever heard of anything that could outright stop his 'Raiton: Kuropansa'. Still, something to consider later, he had to deal with Naruto.
Realizing that he had temporarily lost track of his opponent, Darui uncharacteristically swore; but soon enough he learned the location of Naruto. The sound of rushing wind pulled his attention skyward and Darui discovered Naruto descending from overhead while driving a large sphere of chakra ahead of him. Darui lunged to the side desperately escaping the impact zone just as the large Rasengan slammed into the ground creating an impressive crater and fling Naruto clear of the impact zone.
Darui started to form the hand seal for his 'Ranton: Reizā Sākasu' but broke it off and instead drew his large folding sword as Naruto crossed the distance with unbelievable speed and lashed out with a pair of trench knives. Their blades clashed with a flurry of sparks, before forcing their respective wielders apart from the impact. Using his sword to stop his slid, Darui shot forward once more, trying to seize the offensive.
Lightning chakra flowing into his sword, Darui slashed at his opponent, only for it to violently clash against a trench knife an off balanced Naruto had used in a hasty block. Without hesitation Darui spun around, using his superior height and weight to make another slash, only for Naruto to block yet again, but the force of the impact drove Naruto back several steps. Darui did not take comfort in that fact since Naruto had wind nature chakra, which was the ultimate counter against his own lightning nature.
Meaning his fight against the other ninja needed to be at long range and involve ninjutsu that Darui could utilize with short hand seals. First though he would need to get some breathing room between them before he could do that - Shifting his pacing, Darui launched into a flurry of powerful slashes and stabs. Naruto quickly gave up on blocking each blow instead preferring to dodge and duck between each slice, blocking only when he had no other option.
Finally, after what seemed like hours but had to be only a few minutes, Darui managed to overpower his opponent and sent Naruto flying across the compound. As the Konoha ninja hit the ground and rolled to a stop, Darui sheathed his blade and formed the hand seal for another 'Raiton: Kuropansa' unleashing yet another black lightning panther. Having regained his feet Naruto reacted leaping away from the panther and hurling both of his trench knives, which seemed to ripple with wind, before shredding their way through the construct of black lightning.
But by the time Naruto's feet touched the ground, Darui had completed the hand seals for the 'Ranton: Reizā Sākasu' and unleashed it. A bright halo of energy formed around his hands and then burst into a multitude of beams that scattered outward before arcing toward the unprepared enemy. Naruto registered the attack, as expected for someone with his skills, and hastily created a horde of Kage Bunshin using them to dodge and avoid each beam of light that came near him.
As each Kage Bunshin ceased to exist, leaving behind a cloud of smoke, Darui struggled to adjust the remaining beams and zero in on the original. At least it was until Naruto suddenly made a running jump that carried him high into the air, and Darui converged all of the beams on his opponent. Clearly sensing the attack, Naruto used his legs to flip around to face the incoming beams while forming two rapid hand seals before extending his open palms before him.
The energy beams struck the barrier of wind filling the darkening sky with a flare of bright light and an ear-splitting crack of thunder, yet as remarkable as the defense was it had not been absolute. At the last moment, realizing that he could not redirect all of his beams, Darui had focused on a single beam, veering away from Naruto before curving it back around to catch Naruto from behind. The impact drove the blond high into the air before it burst, engulfing the shinobi in a flare of exploding chakra.
At least that was what appeared to happen because instead of a charred corpse hitting the ground, Darui was treated to the sight of nothing. As in there was no body (or even a log to signify a last minute Kawarimi no Jutsu), only the casual cloud of dust that battles always seemed to kick up. Yet even as Darui tried to puzzle out what exactly had occurred, his attention was diverted to the fact that he could hear the sounds of battle echoing from all around him and belated he realized just how odd it was for a fellow Kumo ninja not to try to help during the fight against Naruto.
Pivoting sharply his eyes darted to the walls of the fort, discovering that each and every Kumo ninja was already engaged with a Konoha or Kiri ninja, and it sounded like even the forces located in the fortified trenches out there were engaged in battle as well. How the hell had this happened, it shouldn't have been possible - and then a horrible, sinking sensation filled him as the image of Rock Lee dropping from the sky from seemingly nowhere hit him like a sack of bricks.
Slowly, almost afraid of what he would find, Darui turned his gaze skyward and discovered a dark silhouette of a large bird circling overhead.
"I also used a toad."
Turning in the direction of the voice, Darui discovered Naruto emerging from a ripple of air revealing that he had been hidden behind a 'Meisai Gakure no Jutsu'.
"Everyone not riding Atori up there I had them climb into Gamajun." Naruto explained, holding a hand up to reveal a small toad that waved at Darui before disappearing in a puff of smoke. "Then after I snuck in, I created an advanced level Kage Bunshin to draw your attention while I summoned him from a hiding spot and helped everyone climb out."
"I see." Darui said, frowning, stung to realize at just how thoroughly the enemy had run rings around him. "I know this is probably a stupid question, but why are you telling me this?"
"Because it's awesome!" Naruto chirped brightly, stretching his arms.
"Be that as it may, your forces are still out matched and the ninja outside will be cut down long before they can reach the inside of this base to aide you."
"Ah, yeah," Naruto sighed, grinning sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his head "Ino-chan and Yugito-chan pointed that out too. But then Mr. Grouchy the hunter-nin told me something really cool."
Then, as if those words had been some unspoken signal, it started raining.
Rock Lee did not swear, due more to the fact that Gai had explained how unyouthful swearing was and not to a lack of words. Not that Lee protested or lectured others who found the need to swear, he had done that only once to Tenten and his teammate had verbally torn him apart. But there were times, especially during battles such as the one he was currently engaged in, that Lee experienced a nearly overpowering urge to unleash a fury of swear words that would leave even the most crude of shinobi flabbergasted.
His opponent, a Kumo ninja named Atsui was proving both highly youthful, a serious threat and downright frustrating.
Dodging the gout's of flames that followed in the wake of a powerful slash, Lee darted forward once more to attempt and engage the blond swordsman. He quickly diverted his path as Atsui made a backslash at his feet and the wall of flames that served as his barrier surged back to their formidable height. Sliding to a halt, Lee glared both at the swordsman and the wall of flames, even as sweat trickled down into his eyes due to the oppressive heat of the unrelenting waves.
"Yosh, are you not afraid of harming your comrades?" Lee asked at last, trying to gain some time while he figured out how to bypass the barrier. Honestly though, Lee held little fear for others to join the fight, he could already hear the growing clamor of combat along the upper walls.
"Is it too hot for you?" Atsui countered cockily, adopting a balanced combat stance, the tip of his blade held even with Lee's forehead.
"Yosh, my flames of youth burn bright enough to protect me!" Lee exclaimed, before frowning at his opponent. "But surely you care something for your comrades?"
"Of course I care!" Atsui snapped, sounding affronted. Then he grinned "The fact is, everyone knows to give me a wide berth when I start heating things up."
Realizing that no further conversation would be coming, Lee dodged to the left a split second before Atsui made a sharp downward chop, unleashing a jet of flames that rushed outward. Pivoting from his dodge, Lee dodged yet another torrent of flames before darting into the relative safety of a nearby alcove. Normally such a move would not prove safe during combat, but Atsui seemed intent on staying exactly where he was since apparently he had realized early on that hand to hand with Lee would be fatal.
So far, the only thing Lee could brag about was the fact that he had managed to avoid taking any serious burns or injuries, and that did not sit well with Lee. Every unneeded second Lee took to combat his enemy was one less second he had to help his allies and a very pretty Kiri Kunoichi in particular, but those flames were proving a hazard. The only solid idea Lee had come to would be to drop his ankle weights and attempt a direct charge on those flames, but he could hear Tenten saying just how stupid that idea was which was why he had yet to attempt it.
"Hey, wait a minute! Where did all these other ninja come from?" Atsui started, finally noticing the other battles happening around him.
Eyes widening Lee realized that he had taken too long and his opponent had realized what exactly was going on. Dropping his weights quickly Lee broke cover and charged the distracted Atsui, knowing that if he did not keep the swordsman from abandoning this battle, that he could turn the tide against the Konoha/Kiri forces. Closing the gap with blinding speed, Lee unleashed a wordless cry of youthfulness plunging head long into the dancing flames of the barrier.
He emerged on the other a second later, and delivered a devastating flying kick to a stunned Atsui, sending the swordsman flying. Atsui passed through his own flame barrier and hit the ground with a heavy thud before rolling into a heap – Lee had continued in his wake and jumped higher so that he was descending toward the stricken Kumo ninja with a powerful punch. Atsui managed to roll away at the last moment, and Lee struck the ground with his blow creating a modest impact crater and a radiating series of cracks.
Atsui scrambled to his feet and just barely managed to block an incoming kick with the flat side of his sword, but the impact sent him skidding away. Atsui tried to recover as he came to a stop, but before he could, Lee was attacking yet again. Before long, it became clear that Atsui could do little to block or dodge the blazingly fast blows from Lee, and growing desperate from the brutal onslaught the blond swordsman made a blind lunge for Lee who instinctively darted out of the way.
This proved a mistake as Atsui immediately resumed the offensive, launching a series of vertical arcs of flames before retreating partway up the stairs leading the battlements before stopping. Lee sprung out the path of the flaming arcs easily enough, before coming to a stop, staring up at his battered and winded opponent. It would be easy to get up there, but it would also be dangerous as either path made him an easy target for Atsui, but on the other hand Atsui could not move and any attack he used Lee could easily dodge.
"You thought you were such hot stuff, but it's all over now." Atsui bragged, sword moving to a ready position. "I have the high ground."
"Yosh, you are surely a bright flame of youth!" Lee responded brightly, muscles coiling in preparation for his coming lunge. "But I also burn brightly with the Flames of Youth, do not think this fight has been settled already."
"You want flames? Let me show you just how hot I can burn." Atsui shot back heatedly, the dull red of his fire chakra exploding to searing white "Take this Kumo Ryu Tsume no Gōryū!"
Lee's eyes widened as Atsui made a series of furious slashes, unleashing numerous semi-circular chakra blades made of flickering white flames that hurtled toward him. Using all of his new found speed, Lee dodged back and then pivoting raced up a nearby wall before back flipping over several more to avoid the attack. It would not have been possible of course, if Lee had not seen Ino use 'Jiten Eiji', since both were similar attacks though Ino's lacked the flaming chakra.
It was not perfect of course, one flaming blade came dangerously close to him, and Lee unconsciously reacted with a backhand, batting it away like a softball. This had the unfortunate result of igniting the binding Lee wore on his hand and forearm. Frantically ripping the bindings from his hands and tossing them aside revealed a badly burned hand...but despite the pain of flexing it, Lee discovered that it was still useable.
"Try that again hotshot!" Atsui shouted, unleashing another wave of 'Kumo Ryū Tsume no Go Gōryū'.
Lee frantically darted through the incoming circular-blades of flaming chakra with all the speed he could muster, preparing to begin opening the Heavenly Gates. He would need to find somewhere secure for the time it would take to start, but he saw nothing immediately available. Thankfully however, no sooner had Lee managed to avoid the last of the deadly attack than it began to rain.
"Rain?" Atsui asked dumbfounded, before snorting and readying his blade. "It'll have to rain a lot harder than this to stop my next technique, Kumo Ryu Ikari no Homusubi."
Lee did not even bother moving.
"WHAT?!" Atsui shouted in realization that his attack had failed completely.
"You were a truly youthful opponent." Lee announced sadly in mid-air from a flying leap, drawing the swordsman's stare of disbelieve. A second alter he spun into a 'Konoha Senpuu', his heel slamming into the face of the Kumo Jōnin. Atsui rocketed away from the impact and slammed into a nearby wall hard enough to smash through it. Landing from his attack Lee stared at the hole and unmoving opponent. "The rain is called Hijutsu: Kirisame and it cancels the chakra in everything it touches."
The darkening sky was flashing with ninjutstu and the surrounding forest echoed with the muffled sound of combat, making the already dangerous hunt for a hidden path all that more dangerous. A lot of the increased danger came from the searchers being distracted from the surrounding traps with the knowledge of the battle, while even more came from the fact that Nii Yugito was growing increasingly desperate. Every second she spent trying to find the damn path was another second Naruto fought alone, another second that he faced death alone.
Frustration spiking high, her chakra surged and shattered the branch she was pushing off, rocketing Yugito perilously forward at a breakneck speed. It was pure luck that Yugito noticed the tripwire and managed to tuck her legs to avoid setting off the trap, but rather than slow down she continued at an even faster pace. At least she did until her earpiece crackled to life with an unfamiliar voice: "Nii-san, slow down."
For a moment, Yugito considered ignoring the voice but dismissed that impulse and landed on a branch, which groaned under her impact. Turning slightly she glared at the man who was speeding after her, an older goateed Konoha ninja. Yugito fought the urge to frown at the man, struggling to recall his name, Mimura she believed – then her attention shifted to the rest of her squad as they took up positions in the surrounding branches.
Yugito could already imagine what the man was about to say, she imagined that the others would be of the same opinion, not that Yugito could blame them. Still, it stung to know that they would soon reveal their doubt about her capabilities and blame her for leading them away from helping their comrades. Yugito was not entirely sure what she could say about that, other than she knew they had to find the hidden path.
To be honest she was lucky they had followed her so far, and had probably only done so because her entire squad were Konoha ninja and thus held Naruto in high regard.
"Nii-san, I know you are anxious to help our comrades and that you wish to prove yourself." Mimura said softly, casting a wary eye at the flashing sky. "However, rushing blindly ahead will help no one."
"Then what do you suggest?" Yugito asked a bit more heatedly than she meant to, mostly because this was not the reaction she had expected. Mimura did not seem to notice the tone of her voice or her surprise.
"I know it is because you are a former Kumo nin, and not used to working with us, but please remember that Konoha has some of the best trackers in the world." Mimura explained.
"I saw no Inuzaka or Aburame with us." Yugito said, trying to figure out how the man could be so understanding. For that matter, he was giving her the benefit of the doubt – and she knew the others in the squad did not share the sentiment.
"They are our most famous, but not our sole trackers." Mimura said, before addressing the branch immediately overhead. "Hoheto-san."
"Yes?" A serious looking young man with featureless pearl colored eyes said as he dropped to the branch they were standing on. "What do you need Captain Nii, Mimura-san?"
"I need you to scout around, far as you can. We're looking for where the traps are the thickest at." Yugito explained, trying to keep the self-loathing at having forgotten about the Hyūga out of her voice.
"Understood." Hoheto said, his eyes flaring to life with the Byakugan for a moment before the bulging veins around his eyes faded. "I believe I've found it."Twenty degrees to the right, fifty feet head, there appears to be a rough footpath with a numerous traps overhead in the trees."
"That would be it." Yugito said, frowning as she considered the situation. She needed to calm down and use what she knew about both Konoha and Kumo; the two villages differed in their mindsets, as did all shinobi villages, but there were some universal overlap. It could be a false trail of course, one that led them into a larger trap, but she did not think that would be the case here.
Because Konoha and Kumo shared one trait, they prized their bloodlines, but they also differed in that Kumo was only willing to let certain members venture this far from the safety of the village. Therefore, the Ranton user that was at Pearl Ridge could only be Darui and he never went anywhere without his former genin teammate Yurui who was a premier trap master and currently ran a skilled ambush team.
"Nii-san?" Mimura asked, drawing her back to the immediate surroundings.
"Sorry, I was thinking about who set this up." Yugito said, before tapping her radio set to address the leaders of the teams. "I want five feet between each team, there will be a lot of traps and they'll be tricky. Team Yurui specializes in traps and ambushes so be extra cautious."
"Hoheto-san, take point." Mimura said a minute later and with confirmation of the orders, they all set off again.
It did not take them long to reach the traps though bypassing them was another story since each trap connected to another trap with three feet between each set of traps. The only odd thing however, was that they were not the most complicated of traps nor the most dangerous; there were just a lot of them. It dragged the thirteen ninja to a much slower and uneven pace, forcing Yugito to stifle the urge to unleash a Spectral Blast and obliterate everything in her way.
"Should we drop to the path below?" Mimura asked as they bypassed the latest series of traps.
"No." Yugito answered shaking her head before the move on to the next "These are standard Yurui style traps, low risk and double layered to create the illusion that the ground is both faster and easier. But that is exactly where the real danger lays."
"You are that sure we are dealing with this Yurui?" Mimura asked softly.
"Yes. The only way I could be convinced otherwise was if Hoheto-san had spotted an area completely clear of traps." Yugito said.
"Excuse me," Hoheto said abruptly cutting across the conversation. "But there are people ahead."
"How many?" Yugito asked, turning her full attention to the Hyūga.
"Three." Hoheto said. "They seem to be waiting for something."
"Description?" Mimura asked intently.
"Standard Kumo flak vests, headbands, no swords." Hoheto said, frowning slightly "From their chakra signatures, they're at least powerful Chūnin, possibly weaker Jōnin."
Yugito scowled at that, but she had a sinking suspicion as to who exactly stood barring their path. "Does one of them have purple hair down the shoulders, two loop earrings per ear and a labret piercing?"
"Nii-san, do you know these men?" Mimura asked, giving her a shrewd look.
"Yeah, that's Yurui and his team." Yugito said. "But why would they be out here now, and not only that, why would they just be standing there?"
"Considering the path, they are most likely disabling the traps that lay ahead while the main units try to hold the line for a retreat." Mimura said thoughtfully. "Uzumaki-sama's plan has pushed the Kumo bastards into retreat."
"Most likely," Yugito agreed, and part of her was happy with that thought. The fighting would soon be over and she could see Naruto again, and she could not wait to see his smile as the realization of this victory hit him. Then she realized what this meant, and her happiness faded to a more practical outlook. "We have to stop the retreat."
"We can't risk it," Mimura countered, shaking his head "Even if we took out these scouts, the others would scatter before we could get closer."
"We can use that." Hoheto said abruptly, and seeing their attention expanded his idea. A single team attacks Team Yurui, while the rest of spread out and place ourselves in a wide arc further along the path. Then when the Kumo teams scatter into the forest, we can ambush them."
"You'll need to break down into two man squads to maximize your field coverage...so I'll handle Yurui's team alone." Yugito said, then at their question looks shrugged. "Kumo still doesn't know I've defected so I have the element of surprise on my side in this fight. Besides, I'm way stronger than any of them, so it won't take long for me to finish up here."
"Very well." Mimura said, inclining his head slightly. "Give us a five minute head start, and then move."
"Right." Yugito confirmed before reaching up to activate her radio and began relaying her orders to the squad. With barely a rustle, the twelve other ninja broke down into their smaller units as they moved off into the surrounding forest in wide arcs. After a minute she set off at a moderate pace, debating on how exactly she should handle this situation; a Spectral Blast would be overkill, as would any form of combat involving the Nibi but it would also be the quickest.
She did not have much in the way of ninjutsu however, not that she honestly needed much beyond the academy basics thanks to her onijutsu 'Shikyo Tacchi'. However, as she had discovered with her battle against Hidan Yugito had been relying on that ability far too much. Remembering the semi-immortal Akatsuki member that she had faced before coming to Nami no Kuni, the former Kumo ninja touched the necklace currently hidden beneath her uniform.
"Jashin, I hope you look favorably on me." Yugito whispered awkwardly, not entirely comfortable with her newfound religion, despite the fact she had experienced the power behind that faith first hand. The only reason she had adopted it as her own though was that it spoke to something deep inside her, like a part of her was waking up after a long sleep. Shaking it off she let her hand fall away from the hidden pendant she wore and instead travelled to her hip pouch, and withdrew a scroll.
Drawing closer to the waiting team, she bit her thumb and smeared the blood across the seal on the scroll while applying chakra, releasing a cloud of smoke and leaving her holding a large red, triple blades scythe with a cable attached to the end. Spinning the rather unique and somewhat cumbersome weapon she held at her side and trailing close to the ground, Yugito picked up her pace and exploded from the tree branches, heading directly toward the startled team below. Nurui was the first to react, but it was not one of surprise or disbelief, instead he sent several shuriken and kunai flying at her.
Yugito deflected the weapons easily and countered by hurling her scythe toward her attacker, only unlike the slower Hidan this time it flew with far greater speed and power. The enemy scattered, one flashing through the hand signs to create a 'Doton: Doryūheki'. The scythe, struck the earthen barrier hard enough to rend it in half, but it had served the purpose of stopping the weapon. Snarling Yugito used the cable to yank the weapon back to her hand as she landed.
Unfortunately no sooner had her feet touched the ground than a sudden pit seemingly opened up, beginning to draw everything toward it. Eyes widening, Yugito retreated as best she could from the 'Doton: Arijigoku no Jutsu' leaping over the loose debris and the trees that were soon uprooted and swept toward the bottomless pit. Spinning her scythe to build momentum Yugito jumped as high and far as she could before launching it at a so far untouched tree; the largest blade found purchase and with a surge of chakra, Yugito pulled herself clear from the attack and landed on the tree.
Safe for the moment she turned her attention to her surroundings, attempting to locate her prey, irritated at the situation. Clearly, Yurui and his team had noticed her approach earlier and had set up their traps accordingly; which meant she would need to be careful, that last attack could have ended with at least a broken leg. A second later she spotted her priority target, Yurui was the better strategist and Kayui the most durable, but Nurui as by far the most persistent and hardest to pin down.
Muscles coiling, Yugito pounced and Nurui registered her approach a second too late; he attempted to move naturally, only for her scythe to whistle through his path forcing him back. Unfortunately, by the time the tall Kumo ninja avoided the attack and shifted directions Yugito had reached him, he brought his hand up instinctively to block her and she grabbed his wrist with her free hand. Nurui was dead before he even had time to register his mistake and Yugito was on the move before his corpse had even started to fall.
She did not get far however, as no sooner had she found Kayui she was suddenly besieged by a pack of wolves made from mud, clearly from the 'Doton: Deido Inuka' which was one of Kayui's favored techniques. It did not prove much a deterrence against Yugito since she simply began to swing her triple-bladed scythe destroying the seemingly endless wave of mud wolves. As her blade tore through the last of the wolves, Yugito shot forward as her bloodlust swept over her, heading directly for a startled Kayui.
The large man retreated, forming hand seals as he went, and a moment later several 'Tsuchi Bunshin' formed and charged her. They spun and jumped, attempting to rain a storm of taijutsu attacks down upon her, but Yuigto barely paid the cannon fodder attention; her scythe slashed and spun systematically cutting each one down or blocking as needed. As she obliterated the last of the 'Tsuchi Bunshin' Yugito turned her attention to Kayui, who had apparently given up trying to lure her into a trap and was instead standing there, kunai in each hand and ready to make his last stand.
At least that was the way it appeared, but Yugito was not about to blindly charge the man since she knew better...and then clearly realizing that she was not coming any closer, Kayui charged her before throwing a kunai. Rather than waste time blocking it, Yugito tilted her head to the side allowing it pass by harmlessly, preparing to cut down the reckless man. Then four steps away, Kayui broke off his charge and dodged away from her, just as her hearing picked up the distinctive sound of hissing explosive notes.
Eyes widening Yugito turned her attention to her location, discovering that not only were there four explosive notes arranged around her on the ground, but there were several more covering the surrounding trees. A surge of the Nibi's chakra allowed Yugito jump clear of the exploding trap just in time, and the resulting shockwave only pushed her further away - and the pain of being pelted with the shattered debris didn't even register. Using the weight of her scythe, Yugito altered her trajectory in midair and managed to plant a chakra infused foot on a branch and pushed off at an angle, rocketing to the trunk of another tree.
Landing on its surface, she started to race along the trunk, Regaining her feet she raced up the side of the nearest tree, scythe trailing behind her as she did, and then abruptly she back flipped into a dive as the tree exploded from a bolt of lightning. Pressing her arms tight against her side, scythe rigidly pressed against her the side of her thigh Yugito became perfectly taut. At least until suddenly changed her positioning so that when she hit the ground, she was tucking chin to chest letting her body roll with the momentum of the bone-jarring impact.
A second later she was upright and jumping back to help bleed off the rest of the momentum from her near suicidal dive. Finally skidding to a bumpy halt, Yugito narrowed her now Nibi enhanced eyes, deciding that this was taking too damn long - and since she was already drawing on some of the Nibi's chakra she saw no reason to stop now. Catching motion in the corner of her eye, Yugito dodged to the side avoiding a barrage of lightning infused shuriken that pelted the area she had just been occupying.
Clear of the dozen of deadly projectiles and sliding along the ground in a low crouch, scythe held out at her side and her other hand trailing the ground Yugito charged at her attacker only to see Yurui form the dragon hand seal before pressing his hands against the ground unleashing the 'Raiton: Jibashi'. A second later a wave of lightning exploded up from beneath her, but unfortunately Yurui could not react to the speed she was currently moving at, and so his technique missed her; before he could even start too fully grasp the situation she was there clawed hand plunged through his torso.
Yanking her arm free, Yugito let the body topple aside, and turned her attention to her surroundings. In the distance, she could hear the continued sound of battle making it clear that while the fort had fell the Kumo ninja had yet to surrender and that was not counting those that were fleeing and had encountered her own squad. Frowning she hefted her scythe, resting across her shoulders, debating on if she should try to find Nurui or leave him and go to aid her Naruto and her new comrades.
Releasing her grasp of Nibi's chakra, Yugito sighed heavily, trying to let her blood lust ebb, before ultimately deciding that she had wasted enough time on this. The longer she took the more likely it became that something bad would happen to Naruto and she needed to be there for him. Still, with one last look at her latest kill Yugito grinned slightly "Praise Jashin indeed." Then remembering Naruto and the battles still raging, departed for the next battlefield.
...Somewhere, beyond the outer darkness, a dark eternal stirred...
I know this chapter is late, sorry; there were a lot of issues with this chapter, more than I honestly thought there would be.
Basically I wrote this chapter 6 or 7 times, simply because I wasn't satisfied with how any of those version turned out and to be honest, I'm still not happy. Maybe its just my nature and how critical of how I am with anything I write or do - or maybe its because some part of me can tell this sucks and I can't see why. Doesn't matter, I finally got a version of this chapter done and ready for your (hopeful) enjoyment.
As for the 'Yugito as a Jashin follower' idea, to be perfectly honest I had the idea waaaay back, when Temari got killed. I toyed with bringing her back from the dead and yeah, it was a horrible idea. But then I got the mental image of Yugito holding that triple-bladed scythe and it seemed to click...so here we are. I look forward to people telling me just how bad that idea is and that I've ruined the character forever
That being said, no 'Naruto: Shinobi Wars' next month, instead I think I'll update 'Naruto: Eleven'.